1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 56

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 56

Part Five

October 1635

The motion of our human blood

Chapter 26

The south bank of the Odra river, near Zielona Gora

“I don’t want a repeat of what happened in Swiebodzin, Captain Higgins. If you have to, shoot somebody. If that doesn’t work, shoot a lot of somebodies. Shoot as many as it takes until they cease and desist. Is that understood?”

Mike Stearns was still icily furious, as he’d been for the last two days. Jeff had never seen him in such a state of mind.

Swiebodzin had been hideous, though, sure enough. Some of the Finnish auxiliary cavalry that Gustav Adolf had attached to the Third Division had run amok once they got into the town and got their hands on some of the local vodka, the stuff they called “bread wine.” They started sacking the town, with the atrocities that went with it. To make things worse, a couple of companies from an infantry battalion joined in. By the time Mike was able to put a stop to it, half the town had burned down and at least three dozen Polish civilians had been murdered and that many women had been raped. Nine of the dead were children. So were six of the raped girls, including one who was not more than eight years old.

There’d been about twenty of the rioting soldiers who’d been too stupid or too drunk to hide once order starting getting restored. Mike’s way of disciplining those soldiers caught in the act had shocked the entire division. He’d had them tied to a wooden fence in a nearby pasture and executed by volley gun batteries at what amounted to point blank range. There hadn’t been a single intact corpse left. They’d just gathered up all the pieces and shoved them into a mass grave.

Some of the Finns started to fight back, but Mike soon put a stop to that also. He had his own cavalry now, and they weren’t fond of the Finns to begin with. Eight of the Finns were killed outright, and about forty deserted. Mike didn’t bother to chase them. A few dozen light cavalrymen simply couldn’t survive for very long in a countryside that was as hostile as western Poland. Sooner or later they’d have no choice but to turn themselves in to one of the army units. Of course, they’d choose one of Gustav Adolf’s Swedish regiments rather than returning to the USE Third Division. But Mike would deal with that problem when the time came.

The reason the Third Division now had its own cavalry regiment was because Gustav Adolf had decided to march into Poland in six different columns. Dividing his forces like that was risky, of course, but he hadn’t really had much choice given that he was determined to move quickly. Marching fifty thousand men through country that had no travel routes except dirt roads and cow trails made spreading out a necessity. Gustav Adolf figured he could take the risk because the six columns were close enough to be able to reinforce each other fairly quickly.

The northernmost column was made up of units representing about half of his own Swedish forces, under the command of Heinrich Matthias von Thurn. That column’s mission was to invest the town of Gorzow from the north, while Wilhelm V and his Hesse-Kassel army would approach Gorzow along the south bank of the Warta River, one of the tributaries of the Oder. Between them, they should be able to take the town. A large part of the population was Lutheran and Gustav Adolf thought they’d be happy to switch sides.

Gustav Adolf himself led the third column, marching south of Hesse-Kassel. That army consisted of the rest of the Swedish army — and all of the APCs. Gustav Adolf’s column was going straight for Poznan, the principal city in western Poland. “Going straight,” that is, insofar as the terrain allowed. Like most of Poland, the area was quite flat. But it was also quite wet, with lots of winding streams; and while it didn’t have the profusion of lakes characteristic of northeast Poland it still had a fair number.

Thankfully, they were mostly little ones. Still, one of the things Mike’s short experience as a general had taught him was the geographic variation on Clausewitz’s dictum. Terrain that doesn’t look too tough is a lot tougher than it looks when you have to move ten thousand men through it. And keep them in some reasonable semblance of order. And provide them with a secure and hopefully dry place to sleep at night, with proper sanitation. And feed them. And do all that while being prepared at any moment to fight the enemy.

Gustav Adolf had put himself in charge of that middle column because he was sure that Koniecpolski would have to defend Poznan. So he would come straight at him while Torstensson and two of the USE army’s three divisions would approach Poznan from the southwest.

That left Mike in charge of the sixth and southernmost column. His job was to take and hold Zielona Gora, thereby providing the Swedish and USE forces with a secure southern anchor. Zielona Gora would also serve later as the base for moving down the Odra to take Wroclaw.

The area they were operating in was a border region that, over the centuries, had been controlled at various times by Poland, Brandenburg and Austria. In the timeline the Americans came from, it might well have been in German hands at this time. Many of these border cities had converted to Lutheranism and gotten out from under Polish Catholic control.

In the here and now, however, Poland had taken advantage of the CPE and later the USE’s preoccupation with internal affairs and the war against the League of Ostend to reassert its authority over the area. Brandenburg had tacitly acquiesced, probably because George William had figured he might someday need Polish support. The border between Polish and German lands now ran along the Oder-Neisse line just as it had in Mike’s universe after World War II. The Odra was completely within Polish territory and Breslau was back to being Wroclaw.

Gustav Adolf didn’t expect Stearns would run into severe opposition. Koniecpolski had fewer forces than Gustav Adolf did, and he’d be hard-pressed to detach any large force to come to the assistance of Zielona Gora. In essence, the king of Sweden had given Mike the easiest and most straightforward assignment. But in order for him to carry out that assignment, Torstensson had had to give Mike one of his cavalry regiments, so he wouldn’t be operating blind. The weather was erratic enough this time of year that the Air Force’s ability to fly reconnaissance missions couldn’t always be counted on.

“Is that understood, Captain Higgins?” Mike repeated.

Jeff nodded. “Yes, sir. But… ah…”

Mike waited, with a cocked eyebrow.

Jeff took a deep breath. “Why me, Mike? Ah, sir.”

For the first time since Jeff had arrived at the Third Division’s field headquarters, Mike’s expression lightened a little. Not much, but Jeff was still glad to see it, he surely was. He’d known Mike Stearns most of his life. This was the first time the man had ever scared him. Really scared him. An enraged Mike Stearns bore no resemblance at all to the man Jeff had grown accustomed to.

“Why you? It ought to be obvious, Jeff. You’re the one commander I’ve got who’s guaranteed to put the fear of God in every man in this division.”

Jeff stared at him. He was trying to make sense of that last sentence and coming up blank.


“That’s ‘huh, sir.’ For Pete’s sake, Jeff, do you think there’s one single soldier in this division who doesn’t know you’re Gretchen Richter’s husband?”

“Huh? Uh, sir.”

“Talk about the innocence of babes. I can guarantee you that at one time or another every soldier in this division has wondered what she sees in you and come to the conclusion that you must have one huge pair of brass balls. Given that she makes kings and dukes shit their pants.”

Mike shook his head. “So do they really want to run the risk of pissing you off, Captain Higgins? No, Colonel Higgins, rather. Now that I think about it, I’ll have to jump you up to lieutenant colonel since I’m going to put a whole regiment under your command.”

“Huh? Ah… Huh, sir. Mike — General, I just got put in charge of a battalion three months ago, and now you want to hand me a whole regiment? But — but –”

He was spluttering a little, he was so agitated. “But, first of all — uh, sir — we don’t have the rank of lieutenant colonel in the USE army. And second of all — uh, meaning no disrespect, sir — but which regiment are you planning to give me? I mean, that’s really gonna piss off whichever colonel — real colonel — you take it away from.” He took another deep breath. “Sir,” he added, not knowing what else to say. He didn’t think Mike would have him put up in front of a volley gun, but…

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25 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 56

  1. robert says:

    More Tintern Abbey.

  2. Jason says:

    You just got to love a object lesson……

  3. Lars says:

    Must resist preorder.. must resist…can not resist.. amazon already called

    Calls for some happy reading hours

  4. Jason says:

    Did they skip ahead? Because it starts off with the ‘The motion of our human blood’ then goes down to chapter 26 looks like there should be something there, but anyway. I like how Mike made it clear what his position on FORAGING is best to stamp that out now instead of later. But GA is being very ambitious spliting your army 6 times, that takes some big huevos.

  5. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @4 — Yes, six columns strikes me as decidedly overconfident, to the point of arrogant. Remember, though, several snippets back Koniecpolski said that he was going to fight G2A on terrain of HIS choosing. He might well decide not to defend Gorzow, but just withdraw. Or he might let G2A get fully involved in taking Gorzow and then use his cavalry to strike the columns from the sides or from behind, throwing them off balance even if they can’t bleed them heavily.

  6. Robert H. Woodman says:

    I said Gorzow. I should have said Poznan.

  7. Damon says:

    @3 The book is available in ebook form Baen.

  8. jeff bybee says:

    getting an e book device is getting more atractive any advice on what kind to get?

    one thing that would partly help one not familure with polish geography would have been a mention of how broad the front is if the columes were a mile apart only the outside columes could be attacked if they are 10 to 20 miles apart then an attacking force could slip inbetween and hit any colume then again I guess numbers can be boring story telling

  9. Blackmoore says:

    G2A is overconfident, it is interesting to note that there has been no discussion of counter-intelligence from spys inside Poland.
    I fear he has no idea that Poland has radio, and that will undo this invasion.

  10. Xellos-_^ says:

    anyone know of a good forum to discuss the ring of fire? finish it over the weekend and want discuss it. However i can’t stand the baen bar. No offense to any form baen but the bar is a ridicules msg board for discussion.

  11. Greg Eatroff says:

    This section states that the Polish-German frontier is on the Oder-Neisse (or Odra-Nyssa if you prefer the Polish form) line, as it is in our day. Does this mean the Poles pushed the Swedish garrisons out of Pomerania? Also, the Odra valley west of the Neisse is Silesia, and I’m pretty sure it’s been stated that Wallenstein considers that his personal turf. Did W never actually hold Silesia, did the Poles push him out, or did they strike some kind of deal?

    As for the six column offensive being overconfident, that depends on how well the Poles have modernized. If all Polish troops are as unfamiliar with rifle muskets as the unit that fought Stearns’ division in Saxony, nothing they can scrape together is likely to overwhelm any of those columns before help arrives, particularly since most of those columns are converging on targets fairly close to the new frontier. Even Poznan is only 100 miles from Frankfurt, but 175 from Warsaw and over 200 from Krakow. Mike Stearns leads the only division that is operating more or less on its own, and it is staying closest to the current border. Of course, when a bunch of main characters are with a relatively isolated column on what the brass assures them is a “relatively straightforward mission” in a war story it’s not too hard to guess where we’ll be seeing heavy fighting.

    And remember, even without the new tech Gustavus Adolphus kicked Polish ass more often than the reverse. It’s guerrilla war as you get past the German-speaking areas Poland has just occupied that’s more likely to do in Gustav’s eastern ambitions than anything the Commonwealth is likely to achieve on a conventional battlefield.

  12. Damon says:

    @8 Baen allows you to download stories in multiple (free)formats or read any story you purchase on line in HTML format, available anywhere you can connect to the internet or saved locally.

    Barnes & Noble has their own (free)reader format, again allowing downloading of stories onto a PC if you don’t want to read on line.

    I haven’t tried Amazon’s Kindle.

  13. Greg Eatroff says:

    @ comment 8: Gerzow Wielkopolski and Zelona Gora are about 60, 65 miles away from each other as the crow flies. Given how long those names take to type I think from now on I’ll use the German names (Landsberg and Gruenberg) instead. It’s what most of the locals would have used anyway.

  14. dave o says:

    #4&5 Overconfident? Shades of Napoleon, and the division of armies into corps consisting of all 3 arms. If the total front is 60-65 miles, the average separation is 10 miles or so. If there are anything like lateral roads, that’s about 1/2 or 1 day’s march, With Mike’s presumed firepower advantage, he should be able to hold for that long, even against superior numbers.

  15. Jeff Ehlers says:

    I’m actually not surprised that they might be skipping around some. It makes more sense to tell parts of the story and whet people’s interest, than to just tell the beginning.

  16. ET1swaw says:

    @11 As I read it, G2A actually got his ass kicked more by the Poles than vice versa. His negotiators won in the truce talks (Truce of Altmark) mostly because the Sejm was welsching on paying Polish troops and they were deserting in droves and Russia (PLC’s primary opponent) was getting antsy. Remember in OTL Russia took the Smolensk area from PLC. NTL you had the ‘Wet Firecracker War’ but no Smolensk.
    Previously G2A was primarily attacking Prussia (Ducal, Royal, and Warmia) along the Baltic. Now he seems to be attacking more inland.
    G2A seems to be believing his own press (OTL historic reputation that overlooks his losses to PLC and Denmark-Norway prior to his entry into TYW) and overestimating his technological edge gained from Grantville. In many of his Polish losses G2A actually had the larger force (sometimes greatly so). And SIX major columns spread over a 70 mile front of limiting to bad terrain to me asks for destruction in detail. His APCs are coal trucks trying to operate where ATVs would probably have trouble. His opponent has what everyone considers the best calvary in the world and his artillery/flying artillery is tactically limited outside a set piece battle. IMO strategically he’s ‘cruizin for a bruizin’.
    Mike Stearns seems to be making Third Army his own. No excuses for any departure from MODERN ‘Laws of War’. Some leeway might be involved in adaption to the 17th century, but as little as possible. And enforcement is draconian (as it most probably MUST be!!). I expect to see it spread through the CoC militias/army units (actually a good thing as NTL Krystallnacht was a good thing, brutal as it may seem).

  17. Ken says:

    @7 – Is it the entire book? Can they actually make money at such a discounted price?

  18. Ken says:

    @7 – Is it the entire book? Can they actually make money at such a discounted price?

    P.S. Does anyone know when the next Gazette is coming out?

  19. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Ken, which Gazette?

    The electronic Grantville Gazette comes out every two months. Since GG 31 came out Sept 1st, 2010, GG 32 should come out Nov 1st, 2010.

    As for the e-version of Eastern Front, it is the complete version that you’d see if you purchased the Hard Cover.

    As for Baen/Webscription “making money at that price”, they wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t make money for them.

    The last I heard, WebScription ‘profits’ equals the amount Baen makes from sales of dead tree books in Canada.

    The Baen attitude is that they can make money with ebooks with a reasonable price, multiple formats and easy to download.

    So far they seem to be correct.

    Eric has said that when the first of the 1632 books showed up in the Free Library that he saw increased purchase of the dead tree version.

    By the way, Baen (or Eric) don’t pay me anything. [Grin]

  20. Ken says:

    @19 – Thanks – I didn’t know what the schedule was for the Gazette and now I do. Also, I will be buying the ebook because I JUST CAN’T WAIT!

  21. Damon says:

    @18 & @19 Thanks Drak for answering the question. I thought it was the complete version when I purchased it and at $6.00, readable any place I can log into my Baen account, I thought it was a bargain.

    Happy reading Ken!

    Drak, is Eric planning on continuing posting snippets from it here or dare I hope that soon snippets from the next book will soon start appearing?

  22. robert says:

    @4 and @15 They are not skipping anything. This is the beginning of Part 5 and each part has a sort of theme/title which is a different quote from William Wordsworth’s famous poem “COMPOSED A FEW MILES ABOVE TINTERN ABBEY.” Go back to Snippet 2 and see Part 1, etc.

  23. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Damon, I’ll be snippeting from this book until Oct 6th.

    Eric may start providing snippets (smaller ones) of Saxon Uprising sometime in Oct.

  24. JaneDB says:

    @8 I have a Kindle and it’s been great for any of the ebooks from Baen. I’ve got all the 1633 canon plus loads of Gazettes. I download them to my computer and then transfer them to my Kindle. I paid $249 for mine and the new improved version is out at $139. It has twice the capacity and longer battery life. I just might upgrade!

  25. TimC says:

    I have a Sony, (the pocket version) it works fine but the Sony PC based software to drive it is DIRE. Fortunately there is a good freeware solution called calibre which runs the sony well. Essentially any of the e-ink readers is pretty good but an LCD one is too reflective to read in daylight. Barnes and Noble have best of both worlds by poutting a small LCD colour screen for management below the e-ink screen

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